Updating Firefox ESR — 1

Some months ago, starting with Firefox 67, the Firefox design was changed to support different user profiles for different versions of Firefox.

One result of this design change is users being greeted with a fresh profile, seemingly wiping previous configurations, add-ons, bookmarks, etc.

To some credit there was a warning dialog about the transition.

For people who use only one version of Firefox, restoring the previous profile is straightforward. Either launch Firefox with the profile manager (firefox --ProfileManager) or, after starting Firefox, open about:profiles.

With either approach, set the original profile as the default and delete the new profile. The new “empty” profile will be named default-release.

Another approach is starting Firefox from a command line with MOZ_ALLOW_DOWNGRADE=1 firefox -P.

Another way to avoid creating a new profile depends on a version of Firefox that supports the headless feature.

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Run firefox --headless.
  3. Press Ctrl+C to terminate Firefox.
  4. Run Firefox normally from the desktop.

These approaches are fine for those who are computer savvy. Not so much for those who are not. Those who are not are left confused.

These approaches work fine for single users, but are frustrating for administrators with users to support.

This new profile approach is irritating. The default behavior should have been to leave profiles alone. Only savvy users have multiple profiles or multiple versions installed.

At work we use Firefox ESR. I avoided the proverbial ESR 68 handwriting on the wall by creating a custom shell script.

On first launch of Firefox 68, Firefox generates a 16 character hash. This hash is used in two user profile INI files. The hash is reproducible but is specific to each Firefox installation. A generic 16 character hash won’t suffice.

For the curious, the hash generation code is in other-licenses/nsis/Contrib/CityHash.

Needing to know the generated Firefox hash is not required. Firefox can be coaxed into not generating a new profile by modifying each user’s prefs.js and compatibility.ini files.

My script worked only in a Linux environment and not in Windows.

I have my doubts about the benefit of such a change. I suspect only developers and geeks would want such a feature.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Firefox

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